When the Jets traded Pete Kendall this preseason, it meant that someone was going to have to step it up, not just to fill the starting left guard position but, more important, inside the locker room and meetings as well.
While Adrien Clarke has been steadily improving at left guard, it has been right guard Brandon Moore who was quietly and slowly given the reins as the unofficial leader of the O-line. Moore isn't the loudest of the bunch, but his messages are always clear and received.
"There's not any appointed leadership roles that have been dropped on me," said Moore, in his fifth season with the Jets. "It's basically just understanding the offense better and playing football a little bit better and knowing my position a little more. I'm a little bit more comfortable, and if that comes up as me being more vocal, then I could see that."
According to his former teammates, Kendall was the most verbal offensive lineman behind the scenes and was imperative in the growth of both of the Jets' 2006 first-round selections, tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold.
However, Mangold, said, "Brandon also has done it since I got here. He has shown that he knows exactly what's going on. A big thing that he's done more of this year is his communication with me and the rest of the guys, talking things out. Usually last year, Pete dominated a lot of conversations, so now Brandon has an opportunity to say what he wants."
These group discussions — on the sidelines, in meetings or in the locker room — can be credited for the line's recent improvement. Two weeks ago in Baltimore, the Jets didn't let up a sack in the final 21 minutes of the game, a span in which the offense put up 10 points over four series.
Last week, the line held the Dolphins to one sack and made reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Jason Taylor a non-factor; not to mention clearing 110 yards of real estate for running back Thomas Jones.
"It's been a big help especially through how he's been voicing stuff like, 'Hey, if you do this a little differently, it would help me out more,' " Mangold said of Moore. "He's able to assert himself a little more, which has done a huge thing for the line. When I have my head down, he's been able to do a lot of adjusting for us."
Moore doesn't consider himself a typical leader, but he does embrace the fact that his teammates look to him for information, direction and answers. Because he is an experienced veteran with 49 career starts under his belt, the younger linemen acknowledge the dedication it takes to get that far in this league. In essence, he's been forced into this role by his teammates.
"He had no choice almost. You kind of have to grow into that role." right tackle Anthony Clement said. "He's one of the older players on the line, so he's helping out the younger guys, making sure they all know what's going on and making the right choices on and off the field."
"The way they carry themselves every week, the consistency they have and knowing the information they need to know is impressive," Mangold said of Moore and Clement. "They do a great job of trying to bring people up and the help that they give younger guys, too. That's a great attribute of a leader, and I think Brandon does a great job at that."
Mangold's growth over his first two seasons is concrete evidence that Moore is an equally efficient teacher. Moore has seen the 23-year-old center develop tremendously, which is essential when it comes to the success and camaraderie of any offense because typically the center takes the leadership role in the trenches.
"Nick grew up a lot last year," Moore explained. "He's taking over this offensive line as far as communication and lining people up in the right direction. He's building every day.
"He's a leader in his own way. A leader isn't always vocal. He's not a leader in the rah-rah sense but just in the way he approaches the game, makes the right calls, understands what's going on and knows the game plan. That's the way he approaches leadership."
This week, Moore's guidance and communication is imperative, as the Bills defense possesses a knockout punch, especially at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
There's no doubt the Buffalo fans will be doing all they can to help their Bills obtain that first win of the season. When Mangold grips that football, a thirsty and talented front seven will be breathing down the front line's throats amid the deafening roar of the faithful crowd of blue.
"The place is loud," Moore said. "I'm glad we're not going up there when it's cold and loud, but it's a loud place. The fans love the game and really get into it. The crowd noise is definitely something we need to prepare for."
The Bills defense has been off to a sluggish start, the players finding themselves last in many major statistical categories. Moore knows the Jets don't want to wake this sleeping giant.
"They're fast and have great pass rushers up front and their linebackers get to the ball, so that definitely makes for a good defense," he said. "They're going to play hard, I know they're 0-3, but it's been against some tough teams. They're going to play hard and their record won't faze them so they'll be looking for a big win at home to get their season back on track."